I had a comment the other day asking questions about Garden Beds which I promised to answer in a post;
SherryGreens left a new comment on your post “Around The Summer Garden“:
You have such a beautiful garden, everything looks so lush and healthy! I have just turned over a new fresh environmental leaf, and really want to grow food this year. This is silly yet simple question – why does food grow better in the wicking beds? Does it allow the water to percolate through? Also – do all your beds receive full sunlight? Thanks!
Hi SherryGreens. Firstly, there is no such thing as a silly question, just silly answers. Secondly, I have found that since August when I first constructed salad greens do pretty well in the wicking bed. Everything I plant in it is a seedling, and for the first week I water from above until it has a chance to develop its root structure and find the water table in the bed. After that it is on its own, with the bed getting a single water once a week whether it likes it or not!
The water is fed through a single pipe, which is joined to agricultural pipe (slottted) that traverses the length of the bed. Then the water seeps into the sand reservoir where it is then wicked into the compost layer then into the roots of the plants. Not much to it really and very little maintenance. The only maintenance I have given the wicking bed is a top dress with dynamic lifter before I planted my second crop of salad greens and a light rake to mix it all up, then a big water from the top to help the organic fertiliser to break down. I have found this type of garden bed to be extremely water wise, and forgiving if you are a part time gardener. I love the fact that I only have to water it once a week and it takes care of itself for the rest of the time, and that it is made of 100% reused materials.
All of my other garden beds receive at least 8 hours of full sunlight a day in summer and 4 in winter. I find that this is enough to grow decent crops all year around. Most of the other beds are irrigated with low pressure drip irrigation and occasionally from the mains if I am running low on rainwater. I mulch heavily up to at least 5cm in all beds with sugar cane mulch after I have cleaned out the chicken coop to stop evaporation from occurring. Not only does the chook poo help fertilise, but I find this is a must when relying on drip irrigation due to the low flow and coverage. I use compost to improve the beds twice a year, and improve the soil in each bed once a year with blood and bone.
My veggie beds are all raised, because the soil we have around here is heavy clay, and takes many years to build up into something worthy of planting vegetables into. You can read about how I made the beds and my first crop at this post called “Reducing Food Miles part 1“.
I hope I have answered your questions okay.